PHILADELPHIA - The Giants could get some long-awaited answers from Jason Pierre-Paul sometime this week, and depending on the outcome, the team might be in for a big boost.
Or else more frustration about their prized defensive player, who remains sidelined by injuries sustained in a July 4 fireworks accident.
Pierre-Paul is expected to meet this week with the Giants -- his second visit since suffering extensive damage to his right hand in the accident -- and the team is hoping to get some clarity about his availability for the remainder of the season.
Some people within the organization believe there's a chance that he can make it back for the final month of the season; others remain skeptical that he can make it back before next season -- if he can even return at all.
The answer could go a long way toward determining how far the Giants' defense can take them this season. Just the threat of Pierre-Paul on the field would benefit a defense that has had to manufacture a pass rush with a heavy dose of blitzes and disguises.
Coming into Monday night's game against the Eagles, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had done a remarkable job in patching together his unit. In addition to Pierre-Paul, Spagnuolo also has been without the next best pass rushing alternative, Robert Ayers, for most of the season because of lingering hamstring problems. Ayers appears close to returning, but he sat out against the Eagles.
The approach Spagnuolo has been forced to take generally has yielded positive results, although the Giants got away with one in a win against the 49ers on Oct. 11. San Francisco had driven effortlessly for the go-ahead score with 1:45 to play. Only a dramatic Eli Manning drive saved the Giants from a week of further consternation about the defense, specifically the inability to produce a meaningful pass rush.
Pierre-Paul himself had moments in which he would disappear in games, but that's often the case with even the NFL's best pass rushers. Nevertheless, the Giants have been significantly impacted by his absence.
Of course, it was not the Giants' fault that Pierre-Paul risked his career by lighting fireworks at his home in South Florida. He suffered injuries so severe that his right index finger had to be amputated, and parts of his thumb and middle finger also were removed. Pierre-Paul also had skin grafts to repair his hand, and the healing process has been slow.
After avoiding the team for most of the summer, Pierre-Paul reported a few days before the regular season to have his hand examined. It was determined that he wasn't close to being ready to play, so he went back home to continue rehabilitation. One source familiar with Pierre-Paul's situation said on Monday the team may believe that he is still a few weeks away from returning.
With the Giants coming into the Eagles game at 3-2 and in sole possession of the NFC East lead, the time factor for Pierre-Paul's potential return becomes all the more important. After the Philly matchup, there are 10 games and a bye week left before the end of the regular season.
The first half of Monday night's game provided further evidence of how much the Giants miss their top pass rusher. On the Eagles' second possession, quarterback Sam Bradford ripped through the defense on a seven-play, 78-yard drive that ended with his 32-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper, pulling Philly into a 7-7 tie.
That's the kind of drive that underscores the absence of a legitimate pass rusher. Damontre Moore has been somewhat productive as a pass rusher, but he has nowhere near the strength and power of Pierre-Paul. Ayers is relentless, but injuries continue to limit his availability; he has played in only two games this year. Last season, he missed the final four games with a pectoral injury.
Now you know why the Giants are hoping for some news about Pierre-Paul -- even if they acknowledge it might not be what they want to hear.